OPMA: Keeping notices public Wisdom of online legal ads debated

Keeping notices public

Wisdom of online legal ads debated
10/17/2006 Asbury Park Press

TRENTON — Lawmakers, often criticized by the media for not cutting government spending and lowering property taxes, turned the table on newspapers Monday, saying they don't help matters by charging governments to publish legal notices in print when it could be done for free online.

But the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee indefinitely postponed voting on a bipartisan measure that would allow Internet postings to replace traditional newspaper advertisements.

Tom Cafferty, a lawyer for the New Jersey Press Association, downplayed the cost issue and argued that the Internet is not yet reliable enough to be the sole medium for legal ads and that not everyone would have access to the electronic ads.

He found an unlikely ally in Sen. Sharpe James, D-Essex, who hasn't backed down from fights with newspapers in his long career as legislator and former Newark mayor.

"This time you're right," James told the press association. "You've been wrong on every other occasion, but in this instance, you're completely right."

James used his mother as an example that not everyone can access legal ads on the Internet.

"Mother doesn't have cable, therefore mother doesn't have Internet," James said.

Lawmakers who support the measure say it would save local and county governments unknown sums of money that could offset property taxes.

"The issue here is not accessibility. I think we agree, or at least I agree, it should be in print," said Sen. Nicholas Asselta, R-Cumberland. "But what I don't agree with is the excessive cost that advertising is costing people, that legal notices notices are costing public entities."

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